Nate Silver of political number crunching, fivethirtyeight fame has published a book that could be “one of the more momentous books of the decade”, taking on climate change data, even if it’s not the “geek-conquers-world tell-all in the vein of Moneyball and Freakonomics” reviewer Noam Scheiber was looking for.
From baseball to politics, Silver was able to cut through “enormous amounts of data on questions that lend themselves to pious blather.” For example, while pundits have long liked to claim that the winner of the Iowa caucuses enjoys a big bounce in the New Hampshire primary, Silver looked at data from the 1970s onwards and discovered that the so-called bounce comes from exceeding expectations in Iowa, more than winning.
While ‘The Signal and the Noise’ is mostly about what we can’t do, like predicting earthquakes or killer epidemics, Scheiber argues that the book is an important milestone in the making of Nate Silver and the reinvigoration of intellectual journalism.
Will Silver, or “Silver-ism” fill the void?
“Until now, he took aim mostly at sports pundits and political handicappers.” Now it looks like he’s taking on climate change. Silver is “playing the role of public statistician — bringing simple but powerful empirical methods to bear on a controversial policy question, and making the results accessible to anyone with a high-school level of numeracy.”
“Sorting through the numbers on climate change is a much more daunting challenge than figuring out which shortstops will hit for power or which candidate will carry Ohio,” and yes, “Genuine understanding, as even Silver knows, is more than a numbers game,” but we say good luck Nate Silver. The world needs you.
- ‘The Signal and the Noise,’ by Nate Silver (nytimes.com)